Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Building Fences and Wondering What Might Have Been

I've been working on this section of fence for about a week or so, a few hours at a time every day or so. I try not to work too hard when it's as hot and humid as it's been lately, so don't give me any grief about how long it's taking.

Using my little bulldozer, I can build a halfway decent looking fence pretty quick, first taking down all the old wire, then going down the line pulling posts (just weld a hook on the back of the blade to hook a chain to and it's an easy job), and after a few passes to smooth everything out I'm ready to start building the new fence.

For what it's worth, I typically try to build a 5-wire barb wire fence with an offset high-tensile electric wire as my standard fence.  Corner posts are 10-12" posts (if I can find them) set as deep as I can set them (typically 4 foot deep).

About fifteen years ago, a tornado came through here and knocked down or tore up most of the fences on the farm (among other damage) and this was one of the first fences I repaired back then.  I wasn't farming at the time, but I spent most of that summer rebuilding fences and cleaning up all the debris off the farm and while I was doing all that work, I started thinking even more seriously about farming as a job, vocation, career, life's work, or whatever you choose to call it.  It did take a little time and effort to go from those first thoughts about farming and actually doing it (which is a story in itself) , but rebuilding all those fences way back when played an important role in my getting to the actual doing it part.

I'm not sure if I'd even be farming right now if that tornado hadn't ripped through and destroyed so much.  Of course, it's much more complicated and involved than that and dealing with all that destruction was pretty devastating at times (I think it was much, much harder on my Grandmother), but things definitely would have been different for me if that tornado hadn't hit the farm.

It's funny how things work out sometimes, and working on that fence, I was wondering where I would be or what I'd be doing if that tornado hadn't went over the farm fifteen years ago.


  1. Funny, I spent a couple summers as a teen building fence and many many winters in my mid teens clearing fence from brush. I always thought that was part of the reason I chose a different profession, one without fences.

    Up here we don't see many new fences installed like yours. The few farmers that pasture mostly install one strand electric fences inset from the old fences that are falling apart. It used to be you never saw a field without a nice fence. Now it is more common to see a field without fences. Times they are a changing.

    1. The short answer was that I found that I liked the part about not having a boss telling me what to do, working as hard or as little as I wanted to work, etc. I had the thought that I wanted to be my own boss at the time, and if I was farming I can be my own boss and don't really have to deal with customers (which could be much worse than having a boss) if I'm growing those dreaded "commodity" crops like grain and weaned calves.

      I've used single electric wire fences as interior fences, but like to have good tight barb-wire fences around the perimeter and around cropland (calves have an irritating habit of slipping under a single wire). With an added hot wire around the perimeter, I can easily drop an electric fence anywhere I want.

    2. You know, several years ago I had a co-worker who had just started here tell me several times about his buddie who left his family's ranch to go to law school as he hated building fences. That always stunned me. I've built a lot of fence and it's hard for me to imagine somebody feeling that, if they had a choice, a day indoors surrounded by stress was better than a day building fence. My assumption is that this was just that guy's story.

      " It did take a little time and effort to go from those first thoughts about farming and actually doing it (which is a story in itself) "

      You gave us the short answer, but sometime I hope you'll give us the long one.

    3. I've had days when I've had my fill of building fences due to being exhausted, because I was frustrated at the world, etc., but I've also had the option of just walking away from that frustration for a hour, a day, or a week before I had to come back to finish the job.

      If I had a job and still worked that way, I don't know if I'd have a job for very long.

      Building a fence can be like building a farm; it can be exhausting and will wear you out, frustrating when a tree falls on the fence and undoes everything you worked hard to build, satisfying when you finally end up with a masterpiece of a fence, and long lasting for the next generation. And, it can be a bunch of thankless drudgery.

      Who'da thunk that fence building could be so philosophical?

      "....but sometime I hope you'll give us the long one...."

      If somebody's interested in hearing any of my stories, I'm more than willing to tell them (I can't guarantee they'll have you sitting on the edge of your seat, though).

      Can you give me an idea about what part of the long story you'd be interested in? Getting from building that fence after the tornado to the present, getting from college to now, the nuts and bolts of how I started farming, or something else?

    4. I take it you are in a family legacy in a way, farming land that has been in your family for some time, but I also take it that your father had an off the farm career and you did for awhile as well. I'd be curious of the story as to how you ended up back on the land, so to speak. Feel free to tell the story at length, I'd like to read and always find such things interesting. I'll be others do as well.

    5. You've got the basic story right.

      As soon as I think about it a little bit, and figure out the best way to tell the story of the farm so that it's halfway understandable, I'll start sharing it.